Founder’s Day is held in celebration of Thomas Sutton (pictured above). He died at his home in Homerton in 1611, the same year he founded the Charterhouse.
The son of an official of the city of Lincoln, he was born in 1532 and educated at Eton College and at St John’s College, Cambridge. For much of his life he held the prestigious role of Master of the Ordnance in the North, which meant that he was responsible for military supplies and fortification in the north of England.
He also obtained the lease of the manors of Whickham and Gateshead, close to Newcastle, in 1578, and so gained much of his early wealth from the coal mines in the area and from the sale of this lease five years later.
At the time of his death he was considered one of the richest men in England, with an estate worth approximately ₤4,836 per annum and a personal wealth of over ₤50,000.
He bequeathed part of this prodigious fortune to establishing the Charterhouse, which in its early design catered for 80 impoverished gentlemen and provided schooling to 40 boys.
Founder’s Day takes place every year in December and consists of a chapel service and dinner, which Brothers and members staff are welcome to attend. It is a tradition of long standing, and forms the subject of the following poem by Benjamin George Ambler, a former Brother and writer, known in his lifetime for his book Alfred, Lord Tennyson: His Homes and Haunts.
Sonnet For Founder’s Day at the Charterhouse.
To the memory of Thomas Sutton.
Dear host and benefactor, living yet,
In deed and thought though years have passed away,
Your spirit haunts these ancient halls to-day
Where gracious memories in our hears are set;
Hate, pride and fear, and your good deed shall stay
When other lips shall find new words to say,
And strangers meet where we so oft have met
You planned for those whom you had never known,
And builded better even than men knew,
Prosperity was not for you alone,
With high aims and nobler hopes in view
You sought to make the future days your own,
Giving because God gave it unto you.